Frank Ramsey, the great Cambridge philosopher, economist, and mathematician, was a superstar in all three disciplines, despite dying at the age of 26 in 1930. One way to glimpse the sheer genius of this extraordinary young man is by looking at some of the things that bear his name. My favourite was coined by Donald […]
René Descartes argued that each of us is, fundamentally, a thinking thing. Thought is our defining activity, setting us aside from animals, trees, rocks. I suspect this has helped market philosophy as the life of the mind, conjuring up philosophers lost in reverie, snuggled in armchairs. But human beings do not, in fact, live purely […]
What can math tell us about unfairness? Bias, discrimination, and inequity are phenomena that are deeply complex, context sensitive, personal, and intersectional. The mathematical modeling of social scenarios, on the other hand, is a practice that necessitates simplification. Using models to understand what happens in our social realm means representing the complex with something much […]
Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, environmentalist, poet, and essayist. He is best known for Walden, an account of a simpler life lived in natural surroundings, first published in 1854, and his 1849 essay Civil Disobedience which presents a rebuttal of unjust government influence over the individual. An avid, and widely-read, student of philosophy from the classical to the contemporary, Thoreau pursued philosophy as a way of life and not solely a lens for thought and discourse.
Many people find consciousness deeply puzzling. It is often described as one of the few remaining problems for science to address that is genuinely deep—perhaps even unsolvable. Indeed, consciousness is thought to present a challenge to the prevailing scientific image of the universe as physical through-and-through. In part this puzzlement arises because people are (at […]
Hilary Putnam was an American philosopher who was trained originally in the tradition of logical positivism. He was one of the most influential philosophers of science of the twentieth century and had an impact on philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.
On 9 August 1997, The Mirror printed an edited photo of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed on its front page. The edited photo shows Diana and Fayed facing each other and about to kiss, although the unedited photo reveals that at that point Fayed was facing an entirely different direction. Did The Mirror lie to its readers?
You’ve probably heard that we’re living in the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch in which human activity is the dominant geological process. If you’ve been attentive to discussion surrounding the Anthropocene, you probably also know that the Anthropocene Working Group, a panel of scientists tasked to make a recommendation as to whether geologists should formally recognize the Anthropocene, voted just a few months ago to recommend recognizing the new epoch.
In recent years, democracies around the world have witnessed the steady rise of anti-liberal, populist movements. In the face of this trend, some may think it apposite to question the power of elections to protect cherished democratic values. Among some (vocal) political scientists and philosophers today, it is common to hear concern about voter incompetence, which allegedly explains why democracy stands on shaky ground in many places. Do we do well in thinking of voting as a likely threat to fair governance? Julia Maskivker propose a case for thinking of voting as a vehicle for justice, not a paradoxical menace to democracy.
Here are some hard questions: Is the value of human life absolute? Should we conform to the prevalent values? The questions are hard because each has reasonable but conflicting answers. When circumstances force us to face them, we are ambivalent. We realize that there are compelling reasons for both of the conflicting answers. This is not an abstract problem, but a predicament we encounter when we have to make difficult decisions whose consequences affect how we live, our relationships, and our attitude to the society in which we live.
As 2019 draws to a close, we look back at the philosophers who have featured in our monthly Philosopher of the Month posts and their significant contribution to philosophy and the history of intellectual thought.
Thomas S. Kuhn (b. 1922–d. 1996) was an American historian and philosopher of science best-known for his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) which influenced social sciences and theories of knowledge. He is widely considered one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.
People disagree. Human beings often express conflicting views about a variety of different issues, from food and music to science and politics. With the development of advanced communication technologies, this fact has become more visible than ever. (Think of Twitter wars.) The extent and depth of our disagreements can lead many to despair of making […]
The vast majority of today’s scientists and philosophers believe that human beings are just physical objects, very complicated machines, the essential part of which is our brain which is sometimes conscious. Richard Swinburne argues that on the contrary each human consists of a body which is a physical object, and a soul which is an immaterial thing, interacting with their body; it is our soul which is conscious and is the essential part of each of us.
Many classic existentialists—Camus, Beauvoir, Heidegger—thought that we should confront our mortality, and that human existence is fundamentally shaped by the fact that we will die. But human beings do not only die; we are also born. Once we acknowledge that birth as well as death shapes human existence, existentialism starts to look different. The outlines of a ‘natal existentialism’ appear.
Mary Astell is widely considered one of the first and foremost English feminists. Her pioneering writings address female education and autonomy in the early modern period and had a profound influence on later generation of feminists. Astell was born into a middle class family in 1666. Her father was Newcastle coal merchant who died when […]